Friend Breakup

The biggest law of friendship is never to befriend somebody who is passionately, desperately seeking what you have already obtained a long time ago. Even if everything else clicks, this part will blow up the friendship.

And at my age, it’s equally important not to become friends with somebody who hasn’t accepted who they are. Which is basically the same thing as rule 1.

I’m experiencing a breakup with a friend, and it really hurts.


12 thoughts on “Friend Breakup”

    1. If you are a tenured professor and the friend is desperate for a tenure-track job. If you have been happily married for ten years and the friend is desperate to get married. Or if you are happily single and the friend would love to ditch a miserable marriage.

      A very long-time friendship of mine ended because the friend didn’t get a job in academia, and I just couldn’t have any more conversations about how horrible academia is and how much I’m supposed to be suffering in it. Two years of talking about nothing else, and I gave up.


      1. Apparently the awful job market in academia is somehow related to white male privilege:

        To save you some reading time, Brian Leiter, philosopher at U of Chicago, summarizes the controversy in this way on his blog:

        “The crisis of the humanities: it’s the lack of jobs, not ‘white privilege’ that’s the problem”
        Andrew Kay, who earned a PhD in English but could not secure a job, wrote a memorable and much-discussed essay a couple of weeks ago about the disconnect between goings-on at the annual meeting of the Modern Languages Association and the disastrous job market for new PhDs. As if to confirm his point about the depraved and delusional condition of the English profession, four assistant professors of English wrote a piece denouncing him for his white, male privilege (I’m not kidding, read the piece), the same white male privilege that left him unemployed, while these four embarrassments have tenure-stream positions.


  1. Sorry to hear it. It does hurt a lot. What we usually hear about is pain from romantic relationships that break down, but rarely the friend equivalent.

    About five years ago I broke up with a friend. I still miss the friend of about ten years ago, not so much the one from later. Your point about self-acceptance is making me wonder if that was a problem. She liked to re-invent herself. I’ve been pretty much the same person for the last 20 or 30 years.


    1. This is actually very similar to what I’m experiencing. My friend is trying to reinvent herself, and she’s dumping me because I represent the persona she’s trying to shed.

      The worst part is that our kids are best friends. So she’s not only dumping me, she’s tearing the kids apart. I still haven’t found a way to explain this to my child.


      1. That is both weirdly vague and specific.

        Friend breakups are super painful. I’m sorry.

        It sounds like you’re the one being friend dumped.

        <Unfortunately while our culture provides many scripts for breaking up with romantic partners, it has no template for ending friendships. There should be a ritual.

        “Dear Friend, please take this African Violet as a symbol of the close and wonderful friendship we once shared. Please enjoy it in good health, and if you are having a problem or just want to chat, please call someone else from now on.”


        1. Yes, I’m totally getting dumped. But I don’t need a ritual. I need 5 minutes for kids to say goodbye and get some closure. They are people, not furniture. They have feelings of their own.


      2. I always thought that if your kids are friends, you have to suck it up and be decent to your kid’s friend’s parents, at least until the children are old enough to get together on their own. I’m sorry your (ex)friend can’t manage that.

        If it’s any consolation, your analysis makes me feel much better about my friend break-up. I think you’re exactly right. She left academia and I represented a past self that she was dumping. I thought the problem was that I wasn’t able to keep up with all the new things in her life, but I was, at least at a conversational level. I would have been okay with a less intense friendship in which we kept in touch but much less frequently, but after awhile I realized she was behaving like a boyfriend who wants to break up but doesn’t want to be The Bad Guy and say it’s over. So I said it.

        It’s really too bad for Klara and her friend, though. Do they see each other at pre-school or at the playground?


        1. The friend and her family are moving away. I had a whole thing planned where they say goodbye, exchange a little attachments object, and then send letters to each other and talk on Skype. But the mom is refusing to meet even for 5 minutes to let them say goodbye because she’s “too busy.”

          Klara has tons of friends, by the way, but she’s this kid’s only friend ever. It’s going to be harder on the other kid but the parents seem unperturbed.


  2. I guess, then, you should never be friends with me, as I’m one of those individuals “society doesn’t think too highly of”, and I’ll never be accepting of being one with that kind of a status no matter WHAT.


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